Don’t Be Fooled By the Self-Reinvention Myth

Self-ReinventionHave you ever thought about reinventing yourself? Did you try? Did you succeed?

I have to admit, the idea of reinventing myself has, at times, been something I’ve flirted with. Even if ever so briefly. Perhaps you have too. And why not? After all, reinvention carries with it an implied sense of renewal, reinvigoration, rejuvenation, and …well… rebirth! It can be an attractive idea, especially when we crave a better quality of life. Let’s face it, reinvention is appealing, and it does sell books. And if, like me, you’re a fan of personal development, it’s easy to believe you can stake your claim to happiness on creating a new release of you.

It’s Not About Human Potential

On some level, I think my initial attraction to self-reinvention emerged from my long-time fascination with personal development. In fact, as a psychology major in the 1960s, I was absolutely enthralled by the human potential movement, which was rooted in the theories of many influential thinkers, therapists, and personal development gurus. As well, I was influenced by humanistic psychology, which promised creative, fulfilling, happy lives via something called self-actualization.

Yet, what’s clear to me, now, is this: It’s a mistake to equate self-reinvention with human potential or personal development. [Tweet This]

It’s Not Authentic

While it may be possible to reinvent your approaches to life’s challenges, I don’t believe you can truly reinvent your self. Knowing your self involves insights and takes place over time. By contrast, self-reinvention can be more immediate, but is actually a subtle form of self-deception. If you go down this path, I believe you are side stepping self-acceptance in favor of creating an image. So the process can be one of wordsmithing, selecting a set of affectations, and crafting a “look” or style to arrive at the new you.

On some level, there even seems to be a certain “cool” factor. The process and outcomes seem to convey the kind of cachet that is usually attached to disruptive technologies, innovation, and transformation. Yet it’s not really any of these. Nor is it a brave or bold act. Rather, self-reinvention is a contrivance designed to make people feel better about how they look, not only in the eyes of others but also in their own eyes.

Self-reinvention is not about authenticity. It’s about wearing a mask. [Tweet This]

Identity As Commodity

As I bet you realize, self-reinvention is a popular cultural concept. So, I know I’m going against the grain. Still, it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. Mike Bulajewski has written about this in a thought-provoking essay, “Technological Determinism & the Myth of Self-Reinvention.” In it, he examines the deeper, if philosophical, implications, seeing self-reinvention as tied to the “…rise of consumerism … [and] …the American Dream …[is]… reimagined as the endless production and reproduction of self-identity through consumer products.”

Drawing on a paper by Ken Hillis, he goes on to point out the relationship between self-reinvention and technology, noting:

“It’s strange and fascinating to think that technological determinism might have a strong connection to the ideal of self-reinvention. Hillis understands identity as on the consumer side, like a commodity which can become outmoded. But modeling identity as technology puts a different, complementary spin on it. Identity innovation becomes an economically exploitable activity just like technology.”

The Key Risk

For me, the central risk of self-reinvention is its discontinuity. It’s not a process of self-discovery and personal growth. It does not uncover one’s story and the central themes that drive personal meaning and fulfillment. Rather, it’s externally oriented and prompts recreating identity as a response to changing conditions.

Put more simply: Self-reinvention is fooling yourself about fooling others. [Tweet This]

In the long run, it won’t support lasting success in your career and life, or a better quality of life. For that, you really need to work at knowing and being who you truly are.


What’s your view on self-reinvention? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. says

    Hello, Indeed those who are in the field of psychology, psychotherapy, and training all possess the gift of gab and are prolific in writing. I may need to re-think before I continue my post-grad studies, after reading yours and AW’s posts. You two seem to have similar topics; of course, no two persons are the same. Everyone has his own gifts. You are definitely someone worth following. Glad to made my acquaintances, even thou I don’t think that I would be a good candidate for your program. Thank you again.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Inge!!

      When I was in my graduate program for social work, I read lots by psychologists, therapists, and other thinkers. Certainly there are those that have the gift of gab!!

      I’m not sure what it is about reading posts from Andy and me that has you questioning your studies. However, I can offer you one piece of advice: Read widely and question everything! Yes, everyone is different, and no one can stake a claim to the truth.

      You do have your own gifts, and you have much to offer. Just make sure you’re always operating from your core principles and allow your learning to fuel your growth – and your ability to make a difference to others in this world!

  2. THIRD EYE says

    Self reinvention is fooling self about fooling others………. Who knows if we were fooling self before the reinvention???

    • says

      You make an astute and valid point! And if you haven’t taken the time to figure out who you really are, you very well may be fooling yourself. I believe the effort made in self-discovery is worth it!!


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